Teen Marijuana Use May Show No Effect On Brain Tissue, Unlike Alcohol

A teen who consumes alcohol is likely to have reduced brain tissue health, but a teen who uses marijuana is not, according to a new study.

Researchers scanned the brains of 92 adolescents, ages 16 to 20, before and after an 18-month period. During that year and a half, half of the teens — who already had extensive alcohol and marijuana-use histories — continued to use marijuana and alcohol in varying amounts. The other half abstained or kept consumption minimal, as they had throughout adolescence.

The before-and-after brain scans of the teens consuming typically five or more drinks at least twice a week showed reduced white matter brain tissue health, study co-author Susan Tapert, neuroscientist at University of California, San Diego, told HuffPost. This may mean declines in memory, attention, and decision-making into later adolescence and adulthood, she said.

However, the level of marijuana use — up to nine times a week during the 18 months — was not linked to a change in brain tissue health. The researchers did not test performance; they only looked at brain scans.

The study was conducted by researchers at UC San Diego and is scheduled to be published in the April issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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